People Don’t Understand Autism by Rochelle Donlim

People don’t understand autism People who are not fortunate enough to live with a child who is autistic have no way of knowing the exquisite reality we are exposed to daily.

Those same people do not have the opportunity to experience the limitless intelligence and inquisitiveness of autistic children. History is replete with examples of how ignorance and intolerance have resulted in some of the worst episodes of inhumanity toward others – reservations for Native Americans, relocation camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II, institutionalization of people with brain disorders. Society has become so complacent about such matters that it is regressing to a point where such reprehensible aspects of history are repeating themselves. We simply refuse to acknowledge it.

My husband and I have three autistic teenagers. Our oldest graduated on the honor roll and is an Eagle Scout. Our middle child is a nationally published poet. Our youngest spearheaded a project that resulted in more than 1,000 gifts being delivered to a children’s hospital in a Third World country. In what way are they defective? Where are their diminished capacities?

Yet, not even the most basic of services – an education to which they are entitled – are provided without attempts to make the autistic so uncomfortable that these exceptional youth have to consider suppressing it, as if autism was something to be ashamed of. People don’t understand autism, so they fear and vilify those with the disorder.

I am sure of one thing, however. Our children will have the opportunity to succeed and live independently as soon as others realize that autistic limitations are no different than any other person’s unique situation. And parents like us are the ones entrusted with that duty. It is our job to inform and educate society. It is then their job to open their hearts and minds.